Wednesday, 30 December 2009


My recent trip to Lindisfarne was a deliberate exercise in walking away from that edge when I recognised that life events and my management of / reaction to them was draining me faster than I could refill.

It is popular to describe people as extroverts or introverts but rather like a lot of other categorisation that we use, I find it of limited value.  When I've spent a lot of time alone I need the company of people and vice-versa.  Each provides a different form of refreshment and each drains in a different way.  Spending time alone with God isn't an optional part of my life; it's essential, and when the balance is upset, and that time is 'stolen' by 'stuff' the slope is always downwards.

Anyway, a lot had been happening, and in addition to the normal workload there were some frustrations that raised the question of which issues to try to resolve, and which to leave.  It's easy to feel let down or disappointed by events and behaviours; and while it is pointless to try to address everything, it is also cowardly not to address the things that matter.  It's easy to let 'stuff' go, and opt for a quiet life - and an unquiet conscience.  God has a way of insisting though, and in the weeks leading up to this journey I found myself physically and emotionally tired, and spiritually dry as a result of trying to address issues of and with integrity in a pastoral manner.  And I'm far from perfect anyway... so it was never going to be easy. 

I needed to spend time alone with God, and the cold wind-scoured beaches of the Northumberland coast, St Aiden's church, and the bitter damp and darkness of Lindisfarne gave me that opportunity to sing God's harmonies and dance his steps, and fed me more than a luxury hotel could ever have done.  The dog-walkers of St Aidens must have seen it all before - a solitary figure on a windswept beach paddling in water that was stabbingly cold, leaning against the wind, sitting and staring out to sea. In the footsteps of St Cuthbert?

I doubt the noble saints were so self-absorbed, or had the time to be so self-indulgent, but maybe they had their own reasons for choosing to work in such rugged locations.  Maybe they too heard the voice of God between the wheeling cries of the gulls and the surf breaking?

The trip was expensive in terms of time, accommodation and petrol, and the physio dug his thumbs deeply into the back of my knee later that week and claimed the muscle tension was due to sitting in a car for 7 hours non-stop.  However, the pain of being physically de-knotted was a small price to pay for reconnecting with the Divine in wordless wonder, for being spiritually and emotionally re-filled and refreshed.  Lindisfarne itself wasn't the thin place that I hoped it would be, but the journey to find it was like following the rainbow - the colours of the journey were the joy, not the pot of gold at the end.


  1. Thank you Helen, I love this; a knotted knee is easier to deal wit than a knotted soul. Thanks for this lesson in self care.